Mobilities for work are a fact of life. Many of us might immediately think of the daily commute, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Diverse types of employment-related geographical mobility (E-RGM) are woven into people’s lives. Think of the long-distance rotational commuters who regularly move back and forth between distant hometowns and remote resource projects; the temporary foreign workers whose conditions of work limit their migration to a few months or a couple of years; the tourism workers who seasonally migrate to mountain or historical destinations; or those who undertake regional circuits of working-while-mobile, like trappers or truck drivers. Given its history as an in-migration province that (at least cyclically) promises work driven especially by the oil and gas economy, Alberta is an illuminating context in which to explore the many ways that E-RGM affects individuals, families, and communities.
Alberta Stories shares the stories of work-related mobility from three different groups of people: Indigenous people (Métis in northeastern Alberta), Interprovincial/Interregional labour migrants (long-distance commuters to the Oil Sands region), and International labour migrants (temporary work permit holders in central and northern Alberta). Diverse experiences and impacts of E-RGM are found within and across the three sets of stories. At the same time, the stories collectively illuminate the importance of mobilities – and the immobilities that go with them – to the opening up and closing down of life opportunities for people. They show how mobility for work both shapes and is shaped by family situations, socio-historical identities, and communal places and networks. While ‘mobility for work’ mostly refers to paid employment, it also, importantly, includes unpaid labour such as care work or harvesting.
The increasingly complex realities of E-RGM are often under-recognized or ignored within government and workplace policies. Alberta Stories thus offers supplementary materials we hope will be of use to educators, activists, policymakers, and general readers. A Glossary provides brief definitions of terms and concepts. A series of Issues for Action sheets give further background on key E-RGM problems and offers possible pathways to change. Finally, a set of Lesson Plans offers guidance for further exploration of these E-RGM stories in high school classrooms. One focus here is on the resource economy of Alberta, including as it links nationally and internationally to the contexts from which workers come and as it radiates to other parts of the economic and social landscape such as the service sector and local community livelihoods.
We are all members of the Alberta team of the On the Move Partnership (visit the full website HERE), a seven-year SSHRC-funded project that studied the effects and experiences of employment-related geographical mobility across Canada. We are situated at the University of Alberta, Athabasca University, and the University of British Columbia (and Mount Royal). As described in the Backgrounder to each set of stories (Indigenous, Interprovincial, International), each sub-team took a slightly different approach to creating the stories depending on the particular contexts and research approaches of our respective field research. Methods we used included oral histories, field interviews, and narrative analysis.
Ultimately, our aim is to center the voices of subjects. Their stories foreground the significance of E-RGM – as accomplished in both mundane everyday relationships and in broad systemic processes – to, on the one hand, exclusion, precarity, and liminality, and on the other hand, resilience, adaptation, and resistance. We invite readers to explore and learn about the importance of mobility to work and life for diverse groups of people in Canada.
Contact information can be found HERE